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Last Updated: Monday, 12 June 2006, 07:39 GMT 08:39 UK
Clare Connor column
Clare Connor
By Clare Connor
Former England women's captain

Clare Connor
Connor in her Lashings kit

Having made the agonising decision to retire from international cricket because of injury problems it came as a great surprise to be offered a place in an all-star world team.

But after bumping into charity side Lashings' chairman David Folb at an event in London, I am now playing alongside cricket greats such as West Indies' Richie Richardson and New Zealand's Chris Cairns and so far it is going well.

I have played the first week of the Lashings season and the greatest thrill for me is being able to turn heads.

This is not from an egotistical or vain point of view but simply because I just do not fit into that environment in most peoples' minds.

When you see international stars running onto the pitch, the last thing you expect to see is a woman running alongside them.

So, it has caused a bit of a stir.

But if the attention in turn leads to raising greater awareness about women's cricket, and to conversations where I can discuss opportunities for girls within the game, then fantastic, Folb has been visionary for the profile of the women's game.

I now have the incredible chance to play alongside some of international cricket's greats at a time when I need it most

Clare Connor

So far, I have taken a couple of wickets at each match. The predictable banter of "getting out to a girl" as the outgoing batsman trudges back to the pavilion, head-down, has made me chuckle.

It is just like when I started playing boys' cricket as a 9-year-old!

It's going to be the most wonderful summer and I thank Folb for the opportunity.

As for the changing rooms...I will leave that to your imaginations. But let's just say, it's fun playing with the boys again!

It took a long time to come to the decision to retire as England's women's captain.

Could I walk away from 10 years of wearing an England shirt? Could I leave behind the amazingly close team environment that we had built over the last five years?

Could I accept never touring again with my team-mates?

The questions were, at first, impossible to answer yet I knew that my mental energy for the job was waning slightly.

I had the constant worry of a couple of injuries that were simply not going away, one almost certainly needing surgery.

In addition, I had returned to my full-time post at Brighton College as English teacher and head of public relations only two days after our series against the Aussies had finished...I didn't know what had hit me!

Don't get me wrong, it is a job I love but one that is very demanding.

I had been so wholehearted as an England player and as captain that I could not bear the prospect of trying to divide my time up and not fulfilling the role as captain to the lengths it, and the players, deserved.

So, retirement was the outcome.

I would never have believed that just weeks later I would get into conversation with Folb and the rest is history as they say.

I now have the incredible chance to play alongside some of international cricket's greats at a time when I need it most, when I need something new from cricket, a different thrill.



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